We have all probably been to a souvenir shop at some point in our lives. Whether it’s at a gift shop in a museum, or an airport shop selling destination t-shirts, everyone has some experience with the souvenir industry. In fact, many of us have probably seen clear, crystal cubes with images etched on the inside. This is an example of what is called photo etching. Many different companies have photo etching services, such as Photofabrication Engineering Inc. though they may all be completely different in their methods.

Many people, however, have no idea how the photo etching process works, or why it exists. Sure, small crystal cubes with an etching of the city skyline are fun, but they are not the basis of a multi-million dollar industry. So what do we use photo etched products for, and how is it done?

Manufacturing companies as parts, unsurprisingly, as etched parts help to ensure the integrity of the final product uses many etched parts. Fine screens, sensors, springs, and more all use photo etched parts because they are so detailed and photo etching is one of the few ways to cut metal that can attain that level of precision. The photo etching industry is also an extremely efficient one, as orders can be fulfilled in a mere few hours and the parts themselves are of the highest quality.

Photo etching materials are surprisingly inexpensive, though that does not mean that the process is not high quality and precise. On the contrary, photo etching is quite precise and should be given some care, especially since it often involves working with an acid. Photo etching begins by printing the design of the desired part on a piece of clear film. A phototool is used to determine which parts of the design are to be etched, and which are the regular metal. This is done by marking negative spaces on the phototool.

From there, the metal sheets to be etched are cut to the correct size and cleaned. After that, both sides are laminated with a special light-sensitive material called a photoresist. The metal is then placed between the phototool (which is two separate sheets), and the metal sheet is exposed to UV rays so that the photoresist hardens in the spaces that are not to be cut away. The part of the photoresist that did not see UV rays is washed off, and with these guidelines, the metal is etched using an acid in all of the appropriate spaces.

The acid is then neutralized and the part is washed and dried for use. Photo etching is a great solution for cutting specifically designed parts out of sheet metal, as it is hassle free, inexpensive, precise, fast, and very versatile. A wide variety of materials can be photo etched, and because of how inexpensive the tools are to photo etch, there is very little risk of wasting perfectly good materials. Photo etching can meet a wide variety of needs with its versatility.